How the Laws of Physics May Affect Your Writing

earthishAre you surprised that the sophisticated science of physics could have an impact on your story and its elements of magical realism, science fiction, or fantasy? It’s tempting to create fantastical creatures living on other planets in our universe – take the array of aliens featured weekly in the original Star Trek series – that toss universal rules to the solar winds. Unfortunately, Mother Nature no can do. In this universe, laws of physics prevail, making for some familiar yet boring characters:

  • yyxfzmojy94zAny animal that flies (birds, bats, even ladybugs) is constrained by the laws of aerodynamics. There isn’t much wiggle room if you want to put your flying creature into the atmosphere. Wings are essential. Even Leonardo figured that out centuries ago.  The imaginative creature depicted here? — Sorry, can’t happen.
  • Those creatures that swim need sleek, tapered, very slithery bodies to navigate. They need to move fast to catch their next meal or avoid becoming someone else’s next meal. Their design follows the laws of hydrodynamics.
  • Why haven’t animals of the landlubbing variety evolved toward having the convenience of wheels for transportation? Answer: legs are simply much more practical for navigating on dry land, climbing cliffs, or mucking about in swamps. Any alien creatures we encounter newly arrived on our planet will have legs – not wheels.
  • Graphics-Tablet-AlienOur human forms are shaped by these rules too. The laws of physics determine that our muscles are supported by a bone structure just rigid enough to keep us upright in earth’s gravity yet flexible enough to make our way across the planet’s surface using the logic stored in our “on-board” computer protected by our skull bones.

So, when you describe your alien character, make it an intelligent, communicating, sentient being, similar to the natives living on earth. Whether we like it or not, physics is our universal commander-in-chief. And toss in a modicum of respect for evolution that, over the millennia, has added a measure of uniqueness and charm to each of us earthlings.


4 thoughts on “How the Laws of Physics May Affect Your Writing

  1. Alien stories are never anything I would attempt, but I am fascinated by people who do write in that venue. I also appreciate the fact that even though the story might be science fiction, it still has to make sense. Interesting article, Judith.

  2. Mary: I suspect it must be tempting to let one’s imagination run wild. But when the comments from your readers indicate you don’t have the details correct – Oh my.

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